East Midlands Green Party Blog


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A Cruelty Free Christmas

What does Christmas mean to us? Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, born in poverty to live a humble life among ordinary people. Other symbols are for example Santa which came from a Bishop St Nicolas from Turkey. He gave to the poor.
But this humble and religious aspect of Christmas seems now completely lost, its meaning has changed, but to what? Most people would say it’s about spending time with family, eating well, and an expression of love, which seems now to be in the shape of presents and good food. Experiencing my 13 year old daughter, and witnessing our society, it appears that we somehow measure our love and care for each other in the amount of money spent on gifts and food.
So Christmas has become a symptom of pure capitalism; and capitalism comes with victims. In order to produce endless items (cloths, cosmetics, electrical devises, jewellery, toys, etc) cheap labour, often in developing countries like China or Bangladesh is required. We know how these workers are treated and with few rights they are left vulnerable and exploited.
Production of consumer goods means the use of energy; this means burning fossil fuels that leads to climate change, more violent storms, loss of live and livelihoods. We are facing the biggest environmental catastrophe in our history, which we have been causing by our ignorance and greed for ever more goods.
Our exploitation does not stop here; animals are also paying a huge price for our Christmas tradition. Millions of turkeys are slaughtered along with ducks, geese, pigs, lambs and chickens. Puppies and kittens are given away as presents, then often neglected or discarded by new owners when the novelty has worn off. Prettily packaged cosmetics and toiletries make nice presents, but were probably cruelly tested on animals. Rabbits and foxes have their fur stripped from them to be turned into clothing and accessories.
So is Christmas a season for giving and caring? Not really. But it does not have to be that way. In my family we have a rule no presents for more than £5 per a person – except the children, they get “normal” presents exceeding our limit. We do allow some capitalistic expectation for them, since living in our society we want to avoid them feeling left out or neglected. However, we will discuss the original meaning of Christmas with them, and the madness of spending a lot of money as some sort of expression of love. Furthermore, we will spend some time at Christmas thinking and talking about people here in the UK and over the world, who are suffering as a direct result of our unequal, exploitative culture.
So let’s try and make this a truly “Merry” (for all) Christmas; lets reduce this madness of consumption, let’s spend time with others, think about the less fortunate and vulnerable people, and let’s try to make this a victim- free Christmas. And then we truly can enjoy ourselves.
Oh yes – and cruelty free, here is a wonderful vegetarian nut roast that can replace the turkey, and you can still have all the trimmings!
Lentil and Cashew Nut Roast [for 6 – 2hrs 40min]
75g finely chopped red peppers
2300g red split lentils
450 ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
100g unsalted cashew nuts
11/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks, trimmed & finely chopped
100g mushrooms finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
75g mature vegetarian Cheddar cheese, grated
100g wholemeal bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 free range egg, lightly beaten.
• Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water. Drain, then tip into a saucepan. Add stock and the bay leaf, bring to the boil.
• Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes until the lentils are soft and pulpy and the stock has been absorbed. Stir briefly to prevent the lentils sticking, discard the bay leaf.
• While the lentils are cooking, put the cashew nuts in a non-stick frying pan and toast over a moderate heat until lightly browned, stirring frequently, set aside to cool, then roughly chop.
• Preheat the oven to 190C/375F
• Line the bottom of a 1.4 litre loaf tin with a piece of greaseproof paper.
• Add the oil to the frying pan and cook the onions over a moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, leeks, peppers and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir the lemon juice
• Tip the lentils and vegetables into a mixing bowl Stir in the breadcrumbs, cashews and 2 tablespoons of the parsley, followed by the grated cheese and the beaten egg. Season to taste then spoon into the loaf tin. Level the top and cover with a piece of lightly oiled foil.
• Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the bake comes out clean.
• Remove from the oven and leave to cool while set in the tin. After 10 minutes turn out and cut into thick slices
• Serve with all the trimmings and enjoy a cruelty free Christmas Dinner

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Kat


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FOR A GREEN AND PEOPLE’S EUROPE

Map showing Green Parties in Europe

Map showing Green Parties in Europe

 

An inspiring post and invitation from Peter Allen, Derbyshire Green Party. Help create a Greener Europe together.

Although the Green Party doesn’t believe that contesting elections is all that a political party should do, and spends considerable time and effort campaigning on a whole range of issues , it does believe elections are important and give people the opportunity to vote for policies which they approve of. Some elections are more important than others perhaps  and I believe next May’s European Parliament elections, not yet much talked about, are more important than most.

This may be considered to be a surprising view, particularly when it is combined with a recognition that the powers of the European Parliament are extremely limited, with real power in the EU in the hands of unelected commissioners and the leaders of the various national governments. The importance of the elections is in the message it will give to our rulers (governments, commissioners and corporations) about the popular mood in Europe, and in particular the strength of opposition and unrest that exists across the continent to  austerity programmes being carried out by national governments, with the support of unelected commissioners in Brussels, and to the failure of all of Europe’s leaders to address the growing global climate crisis.

Here in the East Midlands we hope that our excellent lead candidate Kat Boettege will be elected to the new parliament, on the basis of opposing austerity and demanding radical action to combat climate change . One of our central messages is that cuts in spending on services that people rely on (schools,hospitals, welfare benefits, care for the vulnerable) will not solve the economic crisis but will in fact make it worse (and already is). It is denying people the opportunity to work in secure employment (in which they would make a difference for the better in other people’s lives and contribute to tax revenues whilst doing so). It is condemning many to a life of poverty and even destitution.  A second message is that, with carbon emissions already at a dangerously high level Europe and the world can no longer delay taking action to transform our power generation, transportation and food production systems to drastically reduce our these emissions in the hope of avoiding global catastrophe.

We are also saying that the EU must be more democratic, with the power of lobbyists on behalf of corporations curtailed and decisions made by elected representatives rather than unelected commissioners. One issue which we will be raising is the threat to democracy posed by the proposed ( and little known) TTIP treaty which would reduce even further the controls on large corporations.

Campaigning on the basis of the above we are offering an alternative to the failed policies of the various ” grey parties”, and to the nasty politics of hate and fear as represented by UKIP. In an election under proportional representation we are hopeful of success providing we make a big effort. Why not join us in doing so ?


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Peace and Goodwill to all Life?

candles in the dark

The East Midland’s Green Party Blog has been going for a year. This year, as last year, we take a seasonal look at how we can each make a difference. This month’s theme is ‘life-style’ and I wanted to include a look at a seasonal theme of peace and good will to all people (and all life).

There is the song called ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’, in which some pretty odd gifts are presented. The image of 12 marauding lords a-leaping uninvited around a home bought to my mind some of the inappropriate gifts this government has offered to us in the last 12 months. Each one has drastic effects on lives. Simply to name 12 ills the government has been party to or failed in its duty to protect us from, I would include homelessness increasing, child poverty increasing, increased domestic violence with decreased prosecution, increasing debt to pay national (bank) debts, the promise of more water and land pollution with fracking, climate chaos remaining unchallenged despite renewed warnings from government’s chief scientist, the escalation of school privatisation, the escalation of NHS privatisation, increasing fuel poverty and shortages, alienation and dehumanization of emerging communities, disabled people’s rights and ability to thrive taken away. You could add much more. So where is the hope? Look in the mirror, it is you!

Many of these ‘gifts’ were also given by the Labour government, such as privitisation of public services like schools and the NHS.  Edd Milliband forgot to mention the environment at all in his spring conference speech this year. So it is left to us to protect community values in the face of threats posed by reckless and ruthless policies. For many it is a season of festivity,  giving and tradition. When we consider what we wish to share with loved ones this season and beyond let’s look at alternative gifts and ways of giving.

As the first day of Advent arrived and as many prepare for Christmas I am in the midst of Channukah celebrations. I’m an Interfaith Women’s Worker and on Sunday members of the women’s group were at my home sharing cake and hope. Zahra, a Muslim from Gaza and I speak of being cousins, while our friend from Malawi sits by our side. This friend who has been active in our local community for 14 years, trained as a nurse, has done much church, interfaith and women’s empowerment voluntary work, while staying within the law and not doing paid work until she has permission to stay. She  recently spent two and a half months incarcerated in a detention centre without adequate medicine for her high blood pressure and under constant threat of deportation.  When she was let out on bail she was rushed into hospital to deal with the damage her detention and inadequate medicine caused. That was in this country, this year. Another woman around my kitchen table, originally from Ireland,  has told her stories of a persecuted childhood on these shores where shops and homes were closed to her. The original, now retired, matriarch of the group who gathered these women, sits on my right. Across cultures, faiths, generations and politics we speak of our hopes for peace between peoples and peaceful and equal relationships between men and women. The Green Party is the only party that does not use newcomers to our nation as scapegoats for economic uncertainty and almost every other social ill, though our membership diversity in terms of faith or ethnicity is limited so far.  Many call this the season of goodwill but I would ask if goodwill should need a season? It is a good place to start and stretch ourselves from.

Here is a puzzle. Peace and social justice are cornerstones of The Green Party. Peace is a universal concept talked of much, acted on less. While there are many things we would like to see reformed in the EU, one reason to stay is Peace. In the last few decades since the second War to End All Wars there have been armed conflicts all across the globe. We take it for granted that we would not go to war with Germany, with France and with other EU countries. We may like to believe history has taught us lessons, but the trade and political relationships built up by the EU are a great safeguard. It would be politically and economically self-defeating for an EU nation to declare war on another.

Here is a question and each one of us will have a different answer. What are the gifts we are going to offer the world in the upcoming year?  In the year to come I would like to see The Green Party stretch further to welcome a more diverse membership. There will be those who will be offended at the suggestion we have further to go to be inclusive.  I will risk that in the pursuit of a greater gift we could all share; that of a broader more effective party, building on the generations of sterling work given so far. Within the limits of finance and facilities we should open the party to a membership that reflects the inclusiveness of its policies. Religiously neutral and non-pub venues mean more Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and others  feel welcomed. Venues with good access for people with mobility problems would increase membership, active engagement and comfort. Social media, Skype and phone trees could help where this is not possible. Ensuring conferences do not fall on the major festivals of any one faith too many times, if ever, would ensure against bad feeling. Ensuring that any and all allegations of prejudice are dealt with speedily and justly, not with punishment but as a chance to build greater understanding, awareness and tolerance would build us up, together. We cannot afford complacency with regard to diversifying our membership and ensuring welcome is an absolute, not an adjustment of structure. Our practices must live up to the promise of our policies.  We cannot be naive and fail to see where there are barriers to inclusion or that, however unlikely or uncomfortable it seems, even Green Party members may occasionally need to build tolerance and understanding of different cultures and beliefs.  We are in this Earth Ship together and most, if not all, cultures, faiths and creeds have notions of social justice and the importance / sacredness of the earth at their core.  The time has passed when we can afford to accidentally (or purposefully) leave any one out. So, if this is a season of goodwill to all humanity and all life let us expand our borders of what is possible if we dared to think, to dream, we could all work together. Once we were called ‘People Party’. It is a massive ask but it may be only we could do it, let us try to live up to that.

Wishing you peace, joy and sustenance now and in the future. It is a gift that rests in all our hands, unwrapped when we give to one another.

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch


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Diary Dates – A Green Month Ahead

With thanks to Nick Martin from Nottingham Secretary  and Simon Hales, East Midlands Secretary we share  important dates coming up, starting this week.  Your voice and standpoints are needed:
  • Nottingham Green Festival:This Sunday 1st September is the annual Nottingham Green Festival at the Arboretum (off Waverley Street). The event runs between 12:00 and 6:00, full of wonderful stalls and activities. Nottingham Green Party will be running a stall.

 

  • Our Leader Visits: We are pleased to announce that Green party leader Natalie Bennett is visiting us on Tuesday 24th September.
    There will be an opportunity for members to hear Natalie speak in the early evening from 6pm – 7.30pm at Ashston Court Hotel, Derby. This venue is right opposite Derby Railway Station.  www.astoncourthotelderby.com/business.html

If you can’t make it you can still be involved in campaigns and actions:


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Shame on you – you Government of millionaires

As a cost cutting measure, the Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition Government is ending the practice of giving free visas to children from Belarus and Ukraine who’s health has been affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. Children from these countries have been offered rest and recuperation holidays in various countries across Europe, including Britain and Ireland. The purpose of these holidays is to give the children some small opportunity to be free of the radio- active fall out that still blights their home countries. Many of these young people live in poverty and these breaks are the only real holidays they will ever have. For a short period of their young lives that can have uncontaminated food, clean water and a chance to find enjoyment in an unpolluted environment.

The situation in the areas contaminated by the Chernobyl explosion remains serious and the cost a major burden on the economies of Belarus and Ukraine. The world may have largely forgotten about Chernobyl, but the people of Belarus will never be able to forget. Each year that country must spend 20% of its GDP on the continuing clean-up operation, there is little money left to help children suffering from radiation induced sickness. 99% of the land in Belarus is classified as contaminated, 70 square kilometres of land around the stricken plant are permanently uninhabitable. People are still waiting to be evacuated from areas that are too contaminated to live in. Since 1986 there has been a 200% increase in birth defects, many of these are congenital and will be passed on to future generations. Cancer rates have increased by orders of magnitude. 800,000 men were drafted in to help to contain the disaster, to limit the spread of radiation to other countries. 100,000 of these men are dead or disabled. This is the cost of nuclear power that it’s proponents want us to ignore, it’s a cost that the people of Belarus and Ukraine would like to ignore, but they never will be able to.

In 1991, Doctors in Balarus and Ukraine sent a fax message to their international colleagues; in desperation they made this appeal, “SOS appeal. For god’s sake, help us to get the children out.” The message was picked up by Adi Roche, an Irish peace campaigner. She began to take a few children into her own home to give them the break that their doctors hoped would help to give them some extra vitality to fight the effects of low level radiation. This initiative lead to the establishment of the Chernobyl Children’s Project and numerous charities became involved in taking children for a recuperative break in a number of European countries and in America. The visa requirements for the children and their parents or carers – many are orphans, have been waived by the receiving countries. In 2009, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reaffirmed that the UK would continue to waive the £86 visa fee.

But no longer. Now the Government has ended this waiver, it says that the country can not afford it. The UK is so hard up that it has to collect around £186,000 from the Chernobyl children’s families, many of whom subsist on less than £2 per day. Let us just remind ourselves of the poor state of the UK economy, the countries richest people and corporations managed to avoid paying £95 billion in tax last year. Margaret Thatcher’s funeral cost the tax payer £3 million, the prize money at Royal Ascot was £5million. Yet our Government can not afford to let these poor children come to our country for free. Shame on you, you Government of millionaires.

STOP THE FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH OFFICE WITHDRAWING GRATIS VISAS FOR CHERNOBYL CHILDREN COMING TO UK FOR RECUPERATIVE HOLIDAYS FROM BELARUS & UKRAINE

Sign the petition here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/37945


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Child Poverty Rising – action not redefinition of poverty please!

A modern Oliver Twist

A modern Oliver Twist

Over one in four children in the UK are living in poverty according to Child Poverty Action Group UK. In 2010 the Child Poverty Act came into being in the UK. In 2013 child poverty is still set to rise under current government policies. Last year Save the Children and Shelter are among NGOs who have made appeals on behalf of children living in our neighbourhood.  Children are the future, but in a political system of short-term fixes, they are not prioritized. In some areas 50 to 70 % of children are in poverty and this includes areas of the East Midlands. This does not mean absence of the latest trainers or toy. Child poverty can mean hungry or malnourished, cold, or in insecure housing, deprived of the basics. Many are homeless. In November last year The Independent reported a 60 % increase within 12 months of children and pregnant women forced to live in B&Bs.  Even more have insufficient food, clothes or too little heating to thrive. Many are not financially able to socialize with other children or buy stationary for school. Some serious physical and mental illness in children has poverty as a factor.   As child poverty rises, rather than taking measures to prevent the poverty, the government are changing the way that poverty is measured.  Many children may not be counted under proposed changes. I believe every child counts.

The Child Poverty Action Group states well over half these children are in homes where at least one parent works.  The Government are removing the measurement of relative poverty; poverty defined as relative to the standards of living in a society at a specific time. As more and more people are in poverty our overall standards of  acceptable poverty may be changing. Yet the relative poverty measurement includes the poverty threshold or bread line, under which no one should fall. The bread-line measurement is one that protects by opening up help to those who fall below its threshold. In proposed changes instead emphasis will be placed on  how many children are in single parent households and how many have a parent with a mental health condition. These sorts of calculations will be the focus. Reality is more complex, with poverty spiraling from some individual error or illness and massive system failure. Causes and symptoms of poverty can be tangled together. However, under new measurements depression and broken families can be seen as the cause of poverty rather than poverty being a cause of  depression, broken families and a whole host of other entangled social problems. It will become even easier to shift blame onto single mums and dads or on perceived unfit parenting.  It will be easier to make much poverty invisible as children disappear from view. It will be another way of making the vulnerable into scapegoats and valuing profit more than we value people.

Poverty kills. It kills chances and choices too. It isolates. It hides. It divides. It comes in many forms and is magnified by overcrowded schools as well as the squeezing and stretching of the public sector and volunteer organisations. What is our government doing? It is in a process of reclassifying poverty to change the statistics instead of tackling the problem. As I write, the review of how poverty is measured in the UK nears its end. Many of the one in four or more children that now have too little to eat, dress or keep warm adequately may no longer be classified as poor. The blame and responsibility will be placed even more upon single parents for being single, to those with mental health issues or disabilities for being ill. If we allow this to govern our perception, shame and statistics may hide poverty deep and many children may vanish. They will vanish from possible bright futures and chosen careers, they will vanish into depression, abuse or drug misuse. They will vanish into illness caused or made worse by cold or malnutrition but we’ll be told it’s OK because they won’t be counted, they won’t be seen on revised statistics. In the work houses of previous centuries children who died of poverty were listed as suffering from ‘failure to thrive’. Will we use a different name for it now?

children with (mild) rickets

Before the NHS was founded children having diseases like rickets were common. A disease often caused by malnutrition which softens and deforms the bones. Rickets is on the rise again according to NHS, Guardian and other sources. Hardly a way to help children stand strong in the future. This happens as more children and their families are dependent on food parcels and, as Mike so eloquently wrote in our blog’s previous post, school dinners are being undermined too, as is the NHS. Social exclusion, financial limitations and lowered self-worth don’t help with healthful activity levels either.  I feel sometimes as if we were travelling back in time. More alarmingly, I see people’s sense of what is OK shifting as the working poor and those not able to work are pitted against one another. Unemployment is rising because both government and many businesses translate cost cutting and waste reduction as job cutting. More people are poor so we are taught to blame the poor.

Children are among the most vulnerable to the way economic, social and environmental crisis are being mismanaged. In so many ways children are developing and dependent. Public service cuts, we are told, are the only way.  The resultant rise in unemployment affecting family and home security. It also means loss of services for most in healthcare, education and safety and waste of skills is part of the price children are paying. Children are inheriting economic poverty, health poverty, food and soil poverty and all too often the poverty that breaks the spirit of a person; their self worth and future possibilities cracked. Yet billions spent on new roles of police commissioners in shrinking police forces, trillions spent on outmoded weapons or lost in unpaid taxes of the super-rich are seen as normal. Our lives and political priorities are most certainly mis-measured.  Yet these new measurements seem to be moving in the wrong direction; they seem to be the measurements of misdirection and not seeing.

Many believe in the notion of keeping your head down; that it will limit injury. Sometimes it just stops us protecting ourselves and others. If water rises those with their heads down will drown. It may be too late to change how this government counts children in poverty. It is not too late to see children are in real poverty, to demand proper action  and to challenge measurements as and where they do not work. The children on your street, in the school, in your home count. Their futures are entwined. Child poverty is real and needs to be prioritized as central indicator of the state of our nation, not re-classified and veiled. I believe Green Party anti-austerity policies, support of robin hood tax, NHS, schools, a living wage and localized sharing economies places focus back on what is vital and protects children from poverty. I believe strongly we must build on this.


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Dealing with Denial, some thoughts & ideas

climate-change better world for nothing cartoon

I felt drawn to writing something  about how to deal with climate change denialism  – with the help of cartoons from Joel Pett, Chris Maddon and others. This is also written to help address ‘there is no alternative’  and ‘green is a luxury’ ideas. I think the above cartoon says a huge amount about how central and beneficial green policies are and how unprogressive and self defeating the will to deny the problem is. The fact is that by addressing climate change in sensible ways you have a host of benefits. It makes me smile to see the idea of denial incapulated in the phrase ‘What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?’. Then, simply, we have a better world.  There is much evidence, like the Stern Report, for example, that counters denial of climate change. Desertification, more flooding, less habitable land – including London. Some may argue how habitable parts of London are, but allowing it to be underwater seems a little extreme. More locally much of Lincolnshire could also become sea.  Fear can turn for some into depression and apathy takes hold which can lead to sticking heads in the sands or thinking it is someone else’s problem. However, large and small everyday things we can do make real, positive change together. The evidence is in front of our own eyes already, as these cartoons illustrate:

flood-bridge climate change

We’re here in 2013 when many thought we would not be, so we can be hopeful as well as realistic. We have the capacity to make life better. So how do we move forward with hope and action and not get drowned in fear and apathy? Green policies, I believe strongly, form a vital part of this. Green is often seen as a luxury. It is not, and with rising food and fuel costs, increasing natural disasters and price wars over finite raw materials and food, we cannot see green choices limited to consumerism. A little green hedonism can be good and ethical business plays an important role but changes in the way we think are vital too. Better insulation in homes has economic, social and environmental benefit for example.

polar bear climate change

To the ‘there is no alternative’ brigade the only answers can be that present policies are not working and that, as Einstein said, ‘we cannot solve a problem using the same kind of thinking that created it’. There is no alternative is caveman thinking. There are those who say it is a choice, us or the trees and little furry creatures. However, without trees we have no life, no clean air, no shelter to keep soil fertile, no food, no thriving eco-system of which we are part. Personally, I make no excuse for valuing the majesty of life and that the balance of life matters. I also add a favourite contemporary quote from Jarred Diamond’s ‘Collapse: How societies choose to fail or survive’:

‘Elimination of lots of lousy little species regularly causes big harmful consequences for humans, just as does randomly knocking out many of the lousy little rivets holding together an airplane. (Diamond, J, 2005, P.489)

I also add that I am a proud tree hugger and I love many creatures, large and small, with and without fur, including humans. So I conclude that green people and life centred policies are the only way forward. Green policies that call for creation of green jobs and a fairer, more honest tax system, that call for better insulation, a living wage, decentralized, empowering, sustainable energy and food production and protection of our public services. There are, always of course, alternatives. Whatever the future is, our hands help form it. I leave you with these thought provoking cartoons:

climate-change-cartoon-IDS Noah's-Ark-climate-change

Written by Antonia Sara Zenkevitch for East Midlands Green Party